In an interview with GQ magazine, the Hollywood star turned governor of California insisted that he had not taken drugs, even though he has acknowledged using marijuana in the 1970s and was shown smoking a joint in the 1977 documentary "Pumping Iron."
"That is not a drug. It's a leaf. My drug was pumping iron, trust me," the Independent quoted him, as saying.
The 60-year-old also refused to condemn politicians who took drugs and said it was not necessarily a matter of public interest.
However, Aaron McLear, Schwarzenegger's press secretary, said that the governor made the comments in a very light-hearted context, asserting his interviewer was Piers Morgan, one of the judges on "America's Got Talent".
"The governor was doing an interview with the host of 'America's Got Talent,' the newest version of the gong show. I think it's important to keep that quote in the context of the environment where it was said," McLear said.
"Of course the governor understands marijuana is a drug. It's like when he goes on Leno or the Daily Show, if you took something like that out of context, it might seem shocking but it was in a silly entertainment context," he added.
In the same interview, Schwarzenegger listed former British Prime Minister Tony Blair as one of the greatest leaders in history, along with former South African President Nelson Mandela, Presidents John F. Kennedy and Ronald Reagan and ex-Soviet leader Mikhail Gorbachev.
Asked if he would include President George W. Bush on the list, Schwarzenegger, who is a Republican, said: "I would say that I was ... very fond of his father. I worked for President Bush Sr., and he was a great man."